After several years of careful planning, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians recently held a formal grand opening celebration of its Legacy Bank in Murrieta. Soboba Tribal Council Chairman Isaiah Vivanco said it was great to see so much community support at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
“In an effort to expand our economic enterprises we are excited to bring Legacy Bank to the Murrieta Valley,” he said. “Mayor Jonathan Ingram has completely supported Soboba opening our business locally, and we appreciate the hospitality. We know we can bring the same partnership we share in our valley to that of Murrieta.”
So many questions needed to be answered as to why this would be good for the Tribe and the community and it was determined that one of the greatest long-term benefits would be the fact that banking is made up of many diversified jobs such as operations, sales, human resources, accounting, credit, training, and so much more that would afford Tribal members job opportunities to consider in the future.
“Banking is sort of a melting pot of all the jobs across many types of businesses in one place,” EVP and Chief Banking Officer Kathryn “Kathy” Gonzales said. “Since the Tribe is already recognized as a strong leader in employment in the county, having a bank to add to the diversity in opportunities was a natural fit.”
The decision to open the first branch in Murrieta did not come lightly. Because Southwestern Riverside County, but especially the Temecula Valley area, is ripe with small and mid-sized business owners that have been without a true community-oriented bank partnership for loans and cash management services it made sense to give them something that was needed and would be appreciated. By hiring a team of seasoned professionals with significant experience, this new bank could do for small businesses what other banks were not doing.
“We could step into the space that was being vacated and create a thriving bank with a long-term relationship of local leaders to support our efforts and sustain this consistent model long into the future…hence the name Legacy was arrived at,” Gonzales said.
The name was coined at the grand opening celebration of the new Soboba Casino Resort in the spring of 2019 where Gonzales said she and bank president/CEO Jim Hicken witnessed a people that honored their past, stuck to their knitting in the present and were driving toward a future that would be up to them.
“As it had been in the past, so it would be into the future, but now even better,” Gonzales said. “Legacy was not about the immediate but more about a patience that the Tribe possessed to persevere regardless of the obstacles to ensure they not only survived but that they thrived. Legacy meant doing something bigger than each person, bigger than they all were collectively and was intended for the future generations to always remember how it all started and tell this story.”
Formally proposed in 2018 after a couple of years of due diligence, James “Jim” Hicken was engaged as President & CEO in December 2018, EVP and Chief Banking Officer Kathy Gonzales came on in April 2019, EVP and Chief Financial Officer Ricardo “Rick” Huerta in September 2019, and EVP and Chief Credit Officer Dinna Pamintuan in March of 2022. These are the original builders of the bank that set out on the journey with the Tribe to create the new bank and serve as members of its executive team.
Hicken has 40 years’ banking experience with a strong background in credit, and bank start-up experience. Gonzales has 30 years’ financial services experience, a strong commercial banking background and experience building banking operations throughout the Inland Empire, Los Angeles and Orange County. Huerta’s 20 years of banking experience throughout Southern California includes being the former CFO at two San Diego-based banks. Pamintuan has 30-plus years of broad banking experience with several Southern California Banks. Also part of the team are trusted advisors Jim Olson and Jim Jones.
Olson, of Joseph & Cohen, the bank’s legal counsel who started working with SEDC in 2017 on planning the venture and moving through the bank formation process, said that, while such an undertaking can be a challenging and arduous journey, SEDC and the Tribe were up to the task.
“The Tribe’s vision for the bank is grounded in its history and its affirming view of the future, wonderfully reflected in its people. These foundations are why Legacy Bank is here today,” he said. “I have been honored to be a part of it.”
Jones, of Carpenter & Company, the bank’s regulatory consultant, met members of the SEDC board of directors in early 2018 to discuss the Tribe’s vision for Legacy Bank. Ed Carpenter and Jim Jones, principles of Carpenter & Company, were honored to work with the SEDC and the Tribe to make their vision a reality.
“The commitment of the SEDC and Tribal members to plan for their future was impressive, and working with all the individuals that made Legacy Bank a reality was a great experience,” he said.
Along with providing Tribal members numerous career opportunities, the bank will offer focused financial literacy education for both adult and youth citizens and customized loan and deposit programs to address the needs of all people, regardless of location or age.
Members of the Soboba Economic Development Corporation worked directly with Tribal Council and banking professionals to bring the project to fruition. This new business venture is owned by the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians and not by the Soboba Economic Development Corporation. This is to allow the Tribe to prosper from the benefits of the Legacy Bank, all while allowing SEDC to fulfill its purpose of diversification, job creation and self-sufficiency.
The Legacy Bank Board of Directors who will provide leadership and guidance for Legacy Bank are Michael Vanderpool, Becky Flores, Geneva Mojado, Lakshman Koka, Jim Hicken and Jim Jones.
SEDC board member Koka said another important aspect of opening Legacy Bank was to help the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians create an asset that will help the next seven generations be more self-sustaining.
“Moreover, banking can be a stable and lucrative business if planned and managed properly,” he said, adding that the group also felt this business would put Soboba in a better position to utilize its finances and have a better say in how its funds are invested.
Plans are already being made to open additional branches, including the next one in San Jacinto.
Legacy Bank is an FDIC insured full-service bank that can serve personal and business banking needs. It had a soft opening in June and a formal ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration in October. Located at 41391 Kalmia Street, Suite 100 in Murrieta, more information can be found at www.legacybankca.com or by calling 951-579-3177.
Photos courtesy of the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians